Switching from a PC to a Mac: practical tips
This post follows up a post in April (gosh, really?) on switching my main PC to a Mac. A few people got in touch to say they were considering doing the same thing, so I hope I can offer some tips to help the transition be pain-free as possible.
Before switching, of course, all of my main programs and files were housed on my PC, where I worked most of the time. So I knew that finding a way to get all of those onto an entirely different computer AND operating system would probably not be quick and easy.
Not only that, but a small but highly significant proportion of my main programs were Windows-only programs, such as MemoQ and my bilingual digital dictionaries (although one of the CAT tools I use, Swordfish II, is cross platform).
My solution to this was Parallels 6, which enables you to run your Windows OS within your Mac OS as a ‘virtual machine’ without having to reboot into Windows. My Windows programs would run right alongside my Mac applications – simple.
I used Parallels Desktop 6 ‘Switch to Mac edition’, which comes with a high-speed USB transfer cable which you connect from your old PC to your new Mac, quite literally transferring the Windows OS, files and programs across.
Sound too good to be true? It did take a long time, and I had a couple of hiccups along the way (not associated with Parallels itself), but overall the process was surprisingly simple if you follow instructions carefully.
• Remember to back-up your files before doing anything!
• Allow plenty of time for the switch. Preferably over a weekend, rather than during the week when you’re likely to have deadlines looming. The process is not overly complex but that doesn’t mean you can do it in your lunch hour.
• Turn off any overzealous anti-virus programs if you find there is something preventing the transfer from starting. It took a lot of fiddling around before I realised that TrendMicro had created a firewall that blocked the transfer.
• File synchronising software: Careful! I should have known to temporarily disable SugarSync altogether because, doing its job, it started to create two copies of everything on both computers. I felt safer temporarily upgrading my account while the transfer was taking place and sorting it out later. Better that than interrupting and risking data loss.
• Ensure your Mac has plenty of RAM. Mine has 8 GB. Ensure you grant the Windows ‘virtual machine’ more than 1 GB of this, otherwise it will run extreeeemely slowly.
• Fine-tune your virtual machine settings within Parallels according to your needs – e.g. choose which operating system will run faster, and configure back-up behaviour if you use Time Machine (which can get very confused if it thinks it needs to back-up two ‘different’ machines!).
• To make life easier as you’re switching, use as many cross platform tools as you can. For example, LastPass + Xmarks premium to help you keep track of all your website passwords on your old and your new computer, while Evernote, Firefox and Thunderbird helped make the day-to-day transition seamless for me. Once the machine was up and running by Monday, I just got on with work.
• You can certainly run your Office suite in your virtual machine, but it’s probably simpler in the long run just to buy Microsoft Office for Mac, as you may not want to have your Windows virtual machine open all the time. I have found the Office for Mac 2011 edition easy to use and fully compatible with Windows versions of Office. The only programs I still run in Windows are now MemoQ and my dictionaries. The rest are in Mac.
• Use ‘coherence’ mode in Parallels (usually only possible if your machine has enough RAM). Parallels has video tutorials to explain the difference between the different ‘modes’ available for running your two operating systems side by side, but I’ve found ‘coherence’ the most streamlined way of working. I’m barely aware that I’m running two different operating systems.